School knowledge refers to the facts and concepts presented in
textbooks, teachers’ guides, and other aspects of the formal curriculum designed for use in schools. School knowledge also refers to teachers’ interpretations of that knowledge. A critical component of school knowledge is not only what is taught, both explicitly and implicitly, but also what is not taught. School knowledge can also be thought of as canonized knowledge that has been approved or officially sanctioned by
the state, for example, through textbooks or standardized tests. Many students are socialized to not question the textbook, but rather to accept it uncritically. Questioning school knowledge is often penalized (grades, test scores, tracking, and reprimand) in ways that have deep and lasting consequences.
Transformative academic knowledge refers to the concepts and
explanations that challenge mainstream academic knowledge and that expand the canon. Transformative academic knowledge questions the idea that knowledge can ever be outside of human interests, perspectives, and values. Proponents of transformative academic knowledge assume that knowledge is not neutral and that it reflects the social hierarchies of a given society. Transformative academic knowledge recognizes that the social groups we belong to (such as race, class, and gender) necessarily shape our frame of reference and give us a particular—not a universal— perspective. Therefore, each of us has insight into some dimensions of social life but has limited understanding in others.